Does Virtual Reality Have Physical Effects?
Health experts are warning first time users against the adverse physical effects of virtual reality technology if used for extended period on their first sitting.
Physical Effects of Virtual Reality on First-Time Users
Standing in front of some odd-looking chairs, 24-year-old Nina Huang skeptically looks inside before sitting down and she then proceeds to put on the virtual reality headset and prepares to hop on a unique adventure. She is one of many and continually increasing population who are trying out VR games in shopping malls across Beijing, China.
To keep up with the trend, Longfor Properties’ shopping center in Changying, Beijing, unveiled one of the biggest projects in the capital to celebrate May as the month of virtual reality. Wang Zhiyong, who works at the mall, said about 100,000 visitors play VR games like skiing and rowing on a daily basis.
Scroll down for the video
VR is not really an alien idea in China. It has always been very popular among the hip and trendy in the country, and according to a May 16 report from China Business Review, the VR market in China has boomed over the last five years and the market worth is expected to hit $8.5 billion, as many Internet giants like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent are delving into the VR market.
The wonderful experiences that VR brings, however, come at a cost. After about 20 minutes, Nina Huang began to feel uncomfortable.
“I felt dizzy,” she said. “I rode a virtual roller coaster and played with giant Frisbee for about 20 minutes. When the roller coaster reached the highest point, we hung upside down. It felt so real.”
Unfortunately, it’s not just Huang. A lot of other people have reported feeling disoriented and nauseous after using virtual reality technology for an extended period. Deng Yijun, a 23-year-old Chinese student studying in London, also felt sick after the first few minutes of trying out VR in her university. She wore the headset for about 20 minutes during a nerve science project.
“It took me 30 minutes to feel better,” she said. “I don’t want to experience it anymore, unless VR improves its own technology [for better user experience] in the future.”
As more and more people like Huang and Deng try VR for the first time, various categories of side effects have been reported, and they range from eyestrain to dizziness and balance disorders, which usually last for a long time. This has drawn a lot of attention to the possible bad side effects of VR.
Expert Opinions on the Physical Effects of Virtual Reality
Marty Banks, a professor of optometry and vision science and affiliate professor of psychology and bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley connects some of these adverse effects to something called vergence-accommodation conflict. Banks said that while the phenomenon may be temporary, its physical effects on the user should not be ignored.
Albert Rizzo, the director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, added that “a certain percentage of the population, maybe 10 to 20 percent in all, can’t stick to VR scenes more than 10-15 minutes; otherwise, their body will feel uncomfortable.”
Rizzo advocates for breaks in between sessions of VR in order to relax one’s eyes.